The deputy president of the ANC and the country, Kgalema Motlanthe, is the most misunderstood ANC leader today.
On December 6, Motlanthe delivered the ANC centenary memorial lecture about President Jacob Zuma. He was in his element as he extolled Zuma’s virtues and achievements, the man he is destined to come face to face with for the ANC presidential position in Mangaung in a week’s time.
The memorial lecture in Potchefstroom unfolded at a time when the ANC was finalising its nomination processes for those who should lead the party after the Mangaung conference.
We are left with only a few days before that conference begins, but Motlanthe, unlike other nominated leaders, is yet to break his silence about his intention to stand for the position of party presidency.
He is religiously following the ANC’s principle that members should vote for their preferred candidates and the individuals then indicate whether they accept the nomination or not.
He is doing things by the book and he wants to raise his hand when the right time comes. His silence on the issue has not only frustrated the Zuma group to the point of removing him from their slate, it has left the entire nation wondering what manner of man he is.
With bulldog tenacity, many people made him a target of ridicule even before the nomination process started. Condemnation for his non-committal stance came from all angles like a flood of fire. It was an attack on his principled stance – an undertaking of the ANC itself. What a chilling sense of irony!
And up to today, Motlanthe has not cracked. He is sticking to his strong sense of duty, restraint and discipline, and the criticism has continued to hit a brick wall.
The question that comes to mind is: Is Motlanthe a flawed genius or an old-fashioned politician?
I am not his praise singer but objective judgement says the answer is a big no. He is neither of the above.
Then, is he a great leader without a great country, in a sense that he is being let down by the people of South Africa? The answer is a big yes. The people’s endorsement of the violation of rules by most ANC leaders on the road to Mangaung is a huge source of his headache because it is a dazzling menace as well as an incubating ground for the ultimate demise of the organisation.
And the fact that some in the Zuma camp have gone as far as intimidating him not to stand for the presidency just shows that, democracy as an organising political orthodoxy is fast running out of true honest followers in the ANC.
It is not in Motlanthe’s nature to play dice with the lives of our people like a warmonger.
Everyone has witnessed that, amid the bitter contention for positions at Mangaung, Motlanthe has conducted himself calmly.
He is a model of a great leader who encompasses the most fundamental aspects of human goodness.
He reminds me of the great visionary and selfless African leaders such as Dede Kimathi, Jomo Kenyatta, Ahmed Ben Bella, Eduardo Mondlane, Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral and Augostino Neto. He has a special universal appeal that extends far beyond those who expressly follow him.
He has the capacity, charisma and compassion to provide solutions on the current chaotic South African scenery
Even his political opponents in the DA have admitted his heroic leadership skills. He is one of the few ANC leaders who can pass “through the eye of the needle”. He is an electrifying source of national and international inspiration.
He can comfortably relate to everyone including scholars and intellectuals. And hopefully, time will preserve from decay the remembrance of the great man that he is. He will certainly keep his place in the political pantheon.
He carries no baggage and his consistent sticking to the principles of the organisation, even at the risk of falling into the political wilderness after Mangaung, is enough proof that he is not an unscrupulous careerist politician who is in this field for self-gain but for the service and benefit of the masses.
He is the only leader who is prepared to emerge from Mangaung as a nobody because of his selflessness and his love for fairness and justice. This is the choice he has made as other senior cadres of the organisation are deliberately making bad choices and running helter skelter in an effort to save their political careers.
When he was given the chance of leading this country after the notorious recall of Thabo Mbeki, Motlanthe rose to the occasion and performed his duties with excellence, honesty and an unimaginable spirit of patriotism.
On the other hand, Zuma was controversial even before he became president of the ANC and the country
It is these kinds of things that make the ANC a political party of chilling irony. Those who violate the policies of the movement are applauded for being wise while the one man who displays discipline, moral correctness and a strong dislike for the politics of the pocket is described by many in so many negative ways.
The ANC and country are standing at the crossroads of hell and it is leaders such as Motlanthe who can provide the right direction. Marginalising a leader of his calibre will be dangerous for both the ANC and the country in the near future.
This country is on a knife’s edge. And once the glimmer of hope is dashed, the opportunity will be lost for ever.
Currently, he represents the last hope to save the ANC and the country from the perpetual state of siege our nation finds itself in. He remains an enduring symbol of the assertion that great people do not adapt themselves to the world but through the sheer force of their shining example and imposing personalities, force the world to adapt to them.
Motlanthe is a leader with a difference. He is the talismanic glue that can hold and bind our nation together. He can do a lot to redeem the image of the fractured and contentious ANC as well as our sinking country.